The History of the Village of Millbrook, Ontario

This post is about the Town of Millbrook, its history and pleasant streetscape. This small town has more than forty-five designated buildings. The downtown has changed very little since it was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1875. This fire destroyed over thirty businesses and homes along Tupper and King Streets. Prior to the Great Fire, the downtown featured a tailor, shoe maker, nine general stores, four blacksmiths, four wagon makers, a wheelwright, a butcher, a hardware dealer, a saddler and several taverns. Most of the attractive current buildings were built due to the influence of the mills and the railroad bringing a great prosperity to the town.

The first thing you might notice upon arriving in the down town is the lack of a maze of overhead hydro, cable and telephone wires detracting the eyes from the historic beauty of the town. To a railroad fan like the Ranger, the huge mural on a two story brick building on the main street is the next most visible feature of the town. It depicts the long gone Millbrook Station with a steam engine arriving from Lindsay preparing for its run south to Campbell’s (Campbellcroft) and home to Port Hope. This station was part of the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverton Rail Road (Midland RR) closed in the early 1950’s.


Okay, a little more history on the origin of the town. Cavan and Monaghan Townships were surveyed by John Deyell around 1817 and were named after County Monaghan in Ireland. By 1819 the population of 244 settlers had risen to 4,900 by 1861. Most of the settlers of Irish Protestant descent were United Empire Loyalists and veterans of the War of 1812 obtaining land grants from the Crown. A lot of the Protestants were associated with the Orange Order and in the mid-19th century the famous “Cavan Blazers” were established as ‘a fierce Protestant vigilante group’ that often burned down the farms of Catholic settlers.   Ironically after Confederation in 1867, the population began to drop as settlers headed for Western Canada when the Millbrook Colonization Syndicate was formed to develop land on the Canadian Prairies. Many local farmers moved there because of their marginal farm land in Millbrook Ontario.

The Township of Cavan and the Village of Millbrook became part of Peterborough County in 1974 and were amalgamated, along with North Monaghan into one township. In 2007 the township was once again renamed to Cavan Monaghan to shorten the previous names.


Today the village is becoming famous as a filming location. Recently, several movie productions such as “Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, “The Music Man”, “The Ice Princess”, “The Town Christmas Forgot” and as the town of Millbrook, Indiana in “A History of Violence”. In November this year Millbrook was transformed into Prince Edward Island for scenes for a new “Anne of Green Gables” TV series. Millbrook can also claim to be home to the well- known singer/songwriter and JUNO Award Winner Serena Ryder as proclaimed on the Village of Millbrook entrance signs.

If you enjoy hiking, walking, nature or having a lunch at a table near a mill pond, this little town has it all. Check out the 2oldguyswalking posts, The Trout Ponds Trails (July, 2014) where the Bushwhacker describes the amazing hiking/walking trails near Millbrook. His second trail revue from the town, Trout Ponds To Millbrook (Baxter Creek) Trail Review (January, 2015) describes even more of the greatest walking/hiking trails to be found anywhere in Ontario.

When strolling the main street enjoying the quaint commercial establishments, the little town seems to have it all. You might be excused for thinking eventually that there is definitely something missing here. Think hard…what is it? Okay I will remind you. There are no Tim Hortons to be seen! Honest, there are no McDonalds, Wendy’s, Burger Kings and sadly, no KFC outlets to mar the landscape here. Check out Google for closest locations…you have to travel all the way to Peterborough to indulge! A correction here… there is a Subway Shop on Tupper Street.

Inconvenient yeah, but I really think it bodes well for Millbrook. Keeps that 1950’s feeling I have had since my first visit here to attend their yearly Summer Fair many years ago. I remember my late sister Marg telling about riding the train from Port Hope to Millbrook when she was a young girl to attend this fair. There are a few quaint home-style restaurants here, so no need to go hungry and they all serve coffee. One in particular gives the impression that the Fonz and Richie Cunningham could show up for lunch anytime!

Before heading out for a great day of exploring in Millbrook, be sure to check out the 2oldguyswalking blog The History of Needler’s Mill, Millbrook Ontario (July, 2016). This attractive old mill is the ‘heart’ of the town and in the last year has been in danger of disappearing forever!


The 2oldguyswalking team would like to thank the Millbrook & Cavan Historical Society for their diligence and untiring efforts to save this local icon twice! (1980 and 2016).   What would this town be called without its mill…Brook, Ontario?

Regards, Ranger.


  1. Thank you for the informative and amusing comments about your town


    1. Susan, appreciate your comment.


  2. Janice Davis · · Reply

    Thanks for this post. I’m looking forward to my visit to Millbrook. My British Home Child grandpa lived and worked here at Mr Campbell’s blacksmith shop in the early 1900’s. I hope to find some interesting history.


    1. Janis, thanks for the comment. You will enjoy a visit to Millbrook, a very beautiful, historic and quaint little town.


    2. Dawn Sheppard · · Reply

      This was an interesting read, and I’m drawn to the comment from Janice Davis about her British Home Child grandpa. My paternal grandmother arrived at Barnardo’s in Peterborough in August 1910 and soon thereafter came to Millbrook as a housemaid for the family of Dr Elias Burnham. I found her there in the 1911 Census. I’m interested in learning if the Burnham home is still standing, though I’d have to check my records for the address. Crossing my fingers for that and hoping for Google Earth’s help before turning to the local historical society. Glad I found your information about this lovely little town. Thanks.


      1. Dawn, great comment, thanks. There appears to be plenty of history available on Dr. Elias Burnham. With an address it should be much easier to find about the status of his former home. I will take this as a challenge to see if I can find an answer. The local Millbrook Historical Society would be the best place for this information. Yes, Millbrook is a great small town, one of my favorites.


  3. Love the comment about maintaining the 1950’s feel as part of the charm of this lovely village, with no fast food joints and how its buildings have been used so frequently for movies. Thanks for the positive write up.


    1. Sandra, and I love your comment thanks. Millbrook is one of my favorite places to visit. I hope it’s rapid growth recently does not change the downtown area too much. The history of Millbrook is one of our readers favourite posts.
      Thanks again, Ranger


  4. […] up some radishes and blueberries, and stopped to take a snap of a brilliant church conversion. In Millbrook, I found more barn quilts and picked up a wee plant at the charming Valley Shoppe. This is a town […]


    1. Day Tripping/Vagabond Photography, thanks for your comment. Millbrook is a great little town. See more church conversions at 2oldguyswalking site titled Former Churches Re-Purposed from February 6, 2020.


  5. Marian Martin · · Reply

    Would you have any idea of when the first roads were built in Millbrook after the first motor cars? Thank you for keeping history alive! Wonderful web pages.


    1. Marian, I believe the only road built in Millbrook after the motor car would be Highway 115. Most other roads in the area were in existence, if only wagon trails since the village was established.


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